email - June 2020

Open Systems

Yet another evolutionist misunderstands why the Second Law of Thermodynamics is a valid argument against the theory of evolution.

JB recently sent us this email:

My friend is at it again. He said this:

“The Second Law of Thermodynamics applies ONLY to closed systems. The Earth is not a closed system, since it receives abundant energy from the sun, which is used to fuel all life processes. The fact that a single cell can multiply into an adult human being is an example of that. If a single cell had no energy input from an external source, it would simply die. But human beings are open systems and thus the SLOT [Second Law of Thermodynamics] doesn’t apply. Evolution occurs in the same open system as all life processes, and so would have abiogenesis.”

I showed him this article that you did: http://www.scienceagainstevolution.org/v7i1f.htm . In response to that article, he said this:

“It’s the same site by the guy whose [sic] demonstrated he doesn’t understand abiogenesis, evolutionary theory or even the scientific process. He claims to not be making the same mistake as biologists and physicists (you know…the actual experts in evolutionary theory and the laws of thermodynamics who devote their careers to learning and studying the actual evidence), yet he provides no credible arguments to support his claims.

“If you can find a coherent and relevant argument in his articles and present it, that would be great, but he seems to only be fixated on aspects of thermodynamics that aren’t relevant. Entropy is a measure of disorder or randomness of a system. Energy input can decrease that disorder. All life DEPENDS on that fact, and it’s why life can grow from a single cell into a multicellular entity with specialized organs. We take in food and convert it into useful energy to allow us to grow–in effect, becoming more and more ordered. That would be impossible if we ourselves were closed systems. That exact same argument works for both abiogenesis and evolution, since they occur in open systems, using the energy from the sun (mostly), which is converted into biomass (and which itself is consumed). Selective forces work within that dynamic, resulting in chemical, biochemical and species evolution. Thus, his whole argument is invalidated.”

I know that you don't like getting into arguments, but it seemed that you were starting to get less and less material to review, so I figured I would help you out.

It is true that we haven’t gotten any email from evolutionists lately, and are grateful to get this secondhand email.

Some of what JB’s friend says about thermodynamics is actually true—but misapplied. The Second Law says that energy will even out in a closed system. The energy is usually expressed in terms of heat and heat flow, which is why the study of it is called “thermodynamics.”

Heat Flow

The general concept is that when ice cubes are placed in a cup of hot water, heat will flow from the hot water into the cold ice until all the molecules are the same temperature. Left to itself, warm water will not spontaneously organize itself into ice cubes and hot water.

A “closed” system is one in which energy (heat) does not enter or exit. An “open” system is one in which external energy enters, or in which heat escapes.

The Second Law of Thermodynamics says the water in a closed system will not organize itself into ice cubes and hot water—but, as JB’s friend correctly observes, the Second Law does not apply to open systems. So, let’s open the system by placing a cup of water on a hotplate. Adding energy will warm all the water uniformly. It will not cause the water to separate into hot water and ice cubes. That’s the point that JB’s friend misses.

On the other hand, if you stick some refrigeration coils in the cup, and use some energy to force refrigerant through those coils, the water around the coils will freeze while the rest of the water remains liquid. External energy must be intelligently applied to cause heat to organize itself into hot and cold areas in an open system. The refrigerating coils deliberately cause heat to flow unnaturally from a cold place to a hot place.

As long as power is supplied, it continues to be a cleverly designed open system, and the coils, ice, and water will be different temperatures. If you turn off the power, it becomes a closed system. Heat will flow from the hottest place to the coldest place. The temperature of refrigerating coils, ice, and water will equalize, in accordance with the Second Law.

The point is that skillfully applied energy can cause energy to be organized into hot and cold areas in an open system, but energy alone won’t produce organization. The energy has to be skillfully directed.

JB’s friend said, “Energy input can decrease that disorder,” and he was right—as far as he went. What he failed to recognize is that energy has to be purposely directed for that to happen.

He was also correct when he said, “All life DEPENDS on that fact, and it’s why life can grow from a single cell into a multicellular entity with specialized organs. We take in food and convert it into useful energy to allow us to grow–in effect, becoming more and more ordered. That would be impossible if we ourselves were closed systems.” That was the point we made three months ago when we wrote about an apple seed growing into an apple tree that produces apples. We will come back to that in a moment.

But first, remember JB’s friend said, “That exact same argument works for both abiogenesis and evolution, since they occur in open systems, using the energy from the sun (mostly), which is converted into biomass (and which itself is consumed).” That’s where he went wrong. The same argument doesn’t work for abiogenesis or evolution. Sun shining on a chemical broth does not cause it to organize itself and come to life. Energy does not make one living thing evolve into another living thing. That’s the fallacy in the argument advanced by evolutionists.

We were interested in how JB’s friend would react to our argument about an apple seed on the ground growing into an apple on the branch of an apple tree, thus increasing its potential energy, apparently defying the laws of physics. So, we asked JB to ask his friend what he thought about our article, Food For Thought. 1 This was his response:

Again, this is from the SAME website. I would recommend you read what the scientists who actually study the evidence conclude. When well over 99% of relevant scientists (biologists, paleontologists, and scientists from related fields) agree that evolutionary theory is accurate, consider that they may know something that this website author doesn’t.

Having said that, there are a number of problems with the article, but I’ll point out two simple ones:

The author claims “Was burying his poop a random behavior that gave him a survival advantage? I can’t imagine what the advantage would be.” This is called an argument from ignorance fallacy. Just because one may not know of a natural answer to something does not mean there isn’t a natural answer. In this case various predators hide their feces to hide their presence from other predators or to avoid challenging more dominant rivals. Dogs, however, don’t actually bury there feces but instead kick grass or dirt to spread pheromones: https://www.petmd.com/dog/behavior/dog-behavior-why-do-dogs-kick-their-feet-after-pooping. It has nothing to do with any intent to bury seeds. Plants take advantage of EXISTING vectors and can become dependent upon them as they evolve (in other words, the original seeds weren’t dependent on animals for seed dispersal originally, but after animals began dispersing seeds after consuming them, natural selection optimized that more efficient method).

The second problem is his assumption that there was ever a “first” apple tree. That’s not how evolution works. Every species can only ever give birth to its own species, but the accumulation of slight genetic variation over time results in a new species. For a helpful analogy, We know Italian, French, Spanish, etc. evolved from ancient Latin, right? Did a Roman suddenly wake up one day speaking Italian? No, little changes to spelling, grammar and vocabulary were gradually introduced to Latin that eventually led to modern Italian and the other Romance languages. Evolution works similarly. Modern apple trees have been heavily modified by humans using artificial selection, but the ancestral trees had no problems reproducing traditionally.

When JB forwarded this response to me, JB added this comment:

I like how he uses that term "Relevant scientists". Who are these people? He doesn't seem to mention who they are.

JB is on the right track—but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Let’s analyze the response carefully. It began with a personal attack. He began, “Again, this is from the SAME website.” The implication is that the source makes the argument invalid. People who don’t have facts on their side often resort to personal attacks.

Then he makes this false claim: “Well over 99% of relevant scientists (biologists, paleontologists, and scientists from related fields) agree that evolutionary theory is accurate.” He doesn’t cite the source for this outrageous claim because there is none. He probably believes it is true, but he has no proof that it is true. Perhaps he thinks any scientist who doesn’t believe in evolution isn’t a “relevant scientist.” If you exclude everyone who doesn’t believe from the survey, then 100% of the people left do believe.

In our Food For Thought essay, we questioned why my dog buried his poop in the desert. The evolutionist replied,

The author claims “Was burying his poop a random behavior that gave him a survival advantage? I can’t imagine what the advantage would be.” This is called an argument from ignorance fallacy. Just because one may not know of a natural answer to something does not mean there isn’t a natural answer.

He’s right. Just because I don’t know something doesn’t mean it isn’t true. Arguments from ignorance aren’t valid. But this wasn’t an argument from ignorance—it was really a rhetorical question. It was designed to get the reader to wonder, “Can you think of a reason why dogs bury their poop?” It had the desired effect because the evolutionist wrote,

In this case various predators hide their feces to hide their presence from other predators or to avoid challenging more dominant rivals.

How does he know that? Does he communicate with animals, and ask them their innermost thoughts? (Those are rhetorical questions, not arguments from ignorance. )

Dogs, however, don’t actually bury there feces but instead kick grass or dirt to spread pheromones: https://www.petmd.com/dog/behavior/dog-behavior-why-do-dogs-kick-their-feet-after-pooping. It has nothing to do with any intent to bury seeds.

It’s true, my dog did not do a very good job of burying his business. There’s no grass in the desert; but what he did could be described as kicking sand. That is an observable fact. The claim that he did it to spread his pheromones is merely an opinion. Regardless of whether he did it to spread pheromones or bury seeds, the question remains, “What made him think to do that?” Was it an instinct or a learned behavior? As I said in the original article, I didn’t teach my dog to do that. Apparently it was instinctual. This raises the general question, “Where does instinct come from?”

JB’s friend went on to say, very confidently,

Plants take advantage of EXISTING vectors and can become dependent upon them as they evolve (in other words, the original seeds weren’t dependent on animals for seed dispersal originally, but after animals began dispersing seeds after consuming them, natural selection optimized that more efficient method).

“Plants take advantage.” Plants must be smarter than most people give them credit for.

He said, “The original seeds weren’t dependent on animals for seed dispersal originally.” How does he know that? Then, “after animals began dispersing seeds after consuming them, natural selection optimized that more efficient method.” What is the experimental data that proves that assertion?

He said, “The second problem is his assumption that there was ever a ‘first’ apple tree.” No, that’s not my assumption. It is the paradoxical premise that the theory of evolution is based upon. There weren’t any of that kind, and then there was one. It was the first one, which produced more of them. Notice how he tried to finesse the problem.

That’s not how evolution works. Every species can only ever give birth to its own species, but the accumulation of slight genetic variation over time results in a new species.

Did he listen to what he said? “Every species can only ever give birth to its own species.” That’s what every creationist will tell you. Then he contradicted himself in the second half of the sentence when he said, “the accumulation of slight genetic variation over time results in a new species.” The issue really isn’t about the origin of species. The problem evolutionists have is the origin of phyla. Species don’t produce new phyla.

He then said,

For a helpful analogy, We know Italian, French, Spanish, etc. evolved from ancient Latin, right? Did a Roman suddenly wake up one day speaking Italian? No, little changes to spelling, grammar and vocabulary were gradually introduced to Latin that eventually led to modern Italian and the other Romance languages. Evolution works similarly.

That’s not really a helpful analogy because it isn’t true that every language can only ever give birth to its own language. Latin did give birth to Italian, French, and Spanish.

A better analogy might involve the evolution of the automobile. When did the Ford Model T become the Ford Mustang? It was a gradual change over many years. The Ford Mustang became a Mustang when somebody gave it that name. Mustangs, Appaloosas, and Clydesdales gained those designations when somebody gave horses those names after selective breeding produced those varieties. They are all just horses with distinctive characteristics.

Even that analogy isn’t good enough because the real question should be, “When did the Ford Mustang become the P-51 Mustang fighter plane?” The answer to that question is, “It didn’t.” When did Tyrannosaurus rex become a humming bird? It didn’t.

He claimed,

Modern apple trees have been heavily modified by humans using artificial selection, but the ancestral trees had no problems reproducing traditionally.

Yes, modern apple trees have been modified by artificial selection, which was one of the main points in our Food For Thought essay. Furthermore, the essay was inspired by an article which pointed out that apple trees do have problems reproducing naturally. Why should one believe that apple trees used to be able to reproduce traditionally, but evolved and lost that ability?

The problem JB’s friend has is that he just doesn’t think. He blindly accepts whatever he is told.

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Footnotes:

1 Disclosure, March, 2020, “Food For Thought”, http://scienceagainstevolution.info/v24i6f.htm